Harry Mathews is one of the best kept secrets in American poetry—apparently even from himself. In a recent reading he gave at 192 Books to celebrate The New Tourism, his first new collection of poems in over twenty years, Mathews seemed reluctant to cast himself as “the poet.” But this release, handsomely produced by Sand Paper Press, is not a book of exquisite trifles tossed off by a cult-classic novelist, “occasional” poet—however nice that would be. It’s rather a program of choicest music, carefully picked and played together to highlight the virtuosic variety of what Mathews can do, and does do masterfully: mystery sestinas, tight rhyming quatrains, extended free-verse sequences, even Mallarméan haikus! For all their accomplished polish and smooth formalized composure, most impressive is the unique sensibility that infuses and dreams up New Tourism’s destinations: the deadpan hymn “Eggs and Butter: a didactic poem” (c.f. Bishop’s "A Miracle for Breakfast"), the bafflingly beautiful tribute ode “In Pursuit of Henry Vaughn,” or an eight-line lyric “I know that my redeemer liveth” that only Mathews' strangest pen could have penned. Like many others, I discovered this sui generis poet in the classic anthology New York Poets edited by Ron Padgett and David Shapiro. Astonishingly, thankfully, the discoveries of what Harry Mathews’ writing is never ends.
Adam Fitzgerald reads Mathews' "I know that my redeemer liveth":
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